Tuesday, April 6, 2010


April has only just begun but Japan is already in full ohanami (お花見, literally 'flower watching') mode.

According to Japan Pulse, a survey this year by Goo Research (translated by What Japan Thinks) found that the number one problem ohanami party organizers have had was finding and keeping a good spot under the flowering trees. But with more Japanese people carrying smart phones, sophisticated applications are coming to the rescue, including new iPhone apps from AAA, Weathernews and the iSakura app from BayardNetwork Co., which appears to be one of the most popular.

iSakura apparently has info on 1,000 cherry blossom-viewing sites across Japan and has been hovering in the top 10 free downloads in the Japanese iTunes store. It can search for flower-viewing venues by name, area, train line or highway exit or by using GPS to find the nearest spot. The database is also searchable via specific conditions, such as night viewing, free entry, availability of parking and public toilets, and whether beer, sake or snacks are sold on site. For each location, in addition to all those details, the app tells how open the blossoms are on a 10-degree scale from budding to full.

I'm no iPhone app, but I can tell you where you can view gorgeous cherry blossoms in New York City. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden is holding its annual Sakura Matsuri, a weekend celebrating Japanese culture through over 60 events and performances, on May 1 and May 2, rain or shine. You'll be able to enjoy contemporary and traditional Japanese music and dance, taiko drumming, ikebana flower arranging, Japanese DJs, presentations on the art of manga, tea ceremonies, and workshops for all ages...providing you arrive fairly early.

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